This week in OUSD: Budget cuts for next year, closure savings, and possible new attendance boundaries

Wednesday’s Oakland school board meeting has a packed agenda.

Some of the highlights:

  • three charter renewal hearings (no decisions or recommendations yet), for Aspire’s Golden State College Prep, Oakland Charter Academy Middle School, and East Oakland Leadership Academy
  • discussion of the oversubscription problem at Crocker Highlands Elementary and possible changes to the recently moved attendance boundaries at Crocker and Cleveland elementaries
  • a fiscal update (including school closure savings estimates)
  • retirement tributes to school board members Noel Gallo and Alice Spearman. Though last I checked, Spearman fully intends to keep her seat, so this seems a bit premature.
    On Slide 19 of the financial report, OUSD staff give an accounting of the costs and savings created by the closure of four elementary schools. It reports a net, ongoing savings of $3.2 million, after accounting for enrollment losses.

    One-time expenses totaling $2.67 million diminish that considerably, for this year anyway; those include transportation, portable classrooms and transition services.

    I also didn’t see a mention of Lazear Elementary School in the closure analysis, but maybe it’s on another slide. If you recall, Lazear became a charter school, leaving the district, after the Oakland school board voted to close it, along with the other four schools.

    Roughly 75 percent, or 160, of last year’s Lazear kids in grades K-4 are no longer in OUSD, staff reported at the last meeting. That enrollment loss amounts to about $800,000 in general-purpose funding. Even if you factored that into the equation, the ongoing savings would be $2.4 million, above the original $2 million savings estimate.

    Student enrollment (to be precise: Average Daily Attendance) was 750 lower than expected this fall, to the tune of $3.9 million. Add to that an 8.5 percent increase in health care contributions 2013-14 and in 2014-15, and that puts some pressure on the budget.

    District staff estimate they will need to cut $6.1 million from next year’s budget, and $4.3 million for 2014-15 (Slide 18).

    As I scanned through the agenda, I noticed it included tributes to two so-called retiring members of the board, Noel Gallo — Oakland City Councilmember-elect — and Alice Spearman. The trouble is, Spearman has no intention of retiring. Yes, she lost her re-election bid to challenger James Harris, but who has taken him to court, saying he has no right to represent District 7 because he lives in an area of Oakland that’s part of the San Leandro school district.

    As my teenage cousin said incessantly in 2009: Awkward!

    I sent a message to Spearman, who responded that she’d ask for the tribute to be tabled “until that decision has been made by the court.” Next hearing is set for Dec. 19.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • 1day at a time

    A. I’m tired of useless information we get from the district’s half-hearted effort to be transparent. Three questions matter to parents choosing a school:

    1. Is my kid’s teacher is worth their salt?
    2. Is there a good principal at the school?
    3. Is the school safe?

    Until the district is willing to give parents this information, we’ll continue to need blind faith in the system (from placement office to superintendent). Safety and leadership was reported… but we should know about individual teachers. Yes, individual teachers. How can you not know how effective a teacher is before sending them your child? Blind faith.

    B. Having a retirement celebration for Spearman before things are resolved is like giving her the finger. There has to be at least one grown up who can see that. Do Gallo’s now and do Spearman’s later, even if it means having to do it when she’s not still on the board. This should be a non-issue.

    C. Enrollment dropped. How many students did the district lose because of the conversion charters?

    D. Ascend and Learning without Limits were allowed to leave the district with brand new buildings in tow. How is that possible? We pay millions of dollars to upgrade their facilities so they can get on their horse and ride into the sunset? Was there even a fight to stop them? All I heard about was Lazear this and Lazear that when Lazear is a bunch of crusty old portables you can see as you pass the freeway (that now have been painted a putrid color). Why were we fighting tooth and nail to keep some dingy old portables in the system and we let 2 brand new buildings go without a whimper. illogical.

    E. Related to last point. Why are some OUSD children in new buildings while others are in crusty old portables?

    F. Academic Achievement: will we ever discuss why the district tanked last year? A few schools did better, but most of them went backwards.Why? Was it the uncertainty caused by the closures and conversions? Did teaching methods change? Something went awry.

    G. Teacher and principal contracts should all include student achievement/growth to evaluate effectiveness. It’s common sense. Right now it’s possible for students and teachers to all score “excellent” on their evaluations even when the kids don’t learn a thing. Whatever the schools are trying to produce should be part of the evaluations. Maybe it’s not academic achievement… maybe reading and writing isn’t actually what they’re focused on. In that case, we are the idiots who think our kids’ schools are trying to teach them the 3 Rs when in reality that’s just a smoke screen to what they really are doing.

    What exactly are teachers evaluated on – public speaking?

    I submit that how well a teacher teaches “Johnny to read” should be part of their evaluation. Same with principals.

    Doctors are evaluated based on client health
    Lawyers are evaluated based on client outcomes
    Coaches are evaluated based on wins and losses
    Brokers are evaluated based on portfolio growth

    They are professionals.

    Assembly-line workers are only measured by how efficiently they do their job. They’re not held accountable for the quality of the product. They are grunts. They aren’t professionals. They make widgets. They are totally disconnected from the quality. It’s someone else’s responsibility. If the outcomes are bad, widget producers tell you that the parts may have come in screwed up, the design was bad, or management are a bunch of idiots – but they, the workers were as efficient as ever.

    Teachers and principals need to decide whether they are professionals or widget makers. You can’t have it both ways.

    As long as teachers/principal unions fight against including student performance in evaluations, they will be looked at as widget makers… compliance based, deadline driven, efficiency rated, widgeteers.

  • 1day at a time

    Teachers and principals need to decide if they are professionals or widget makers. You can’t have it both ways.

  • IntrepidTeacher

    No doctor would be held responsible for a patient (not client) who didn’t come in for appointments, and/or did not follow medical advice, and/or continued to engage in unhealthy behaviors.

    Nor does any doctor, or coach deal with up to 160 people per day, 5 days per week. Nor does any (or at least not many) coach or stockbroker work with a percentage of people who have not had the free choice to be there.

    We are NOT assembly line workers. Kids are NOT products, and also unlike assembly line workers, they do not come to us all identical, with the same level of prior knowledge, skill, literacy, health, stability (or lack of stability), attitude, and goals. And we, as teachers, do NOT in fact, know the destiny of our students; if they will become scientists or chefs or bus drivers or engineers or musicians or construction workers.

    If you are going to hold me responsible for the outcome of these students, then give me many, many, many fewer students, and, more importantly, hold parents accountable for their children’s school attendance, health, safety, behavior and attitude. If a student comes to class well-rested, well-fed, with an attitude and belief that education is important, then I have a chance to really help that kid.

    But if the kid shows up late when s/he does show up, is frequently absent, is in dubious health, lives on chips and soda, feels free to be disrespectful, cannot pay attention, is below grade level and just doesn’t care, and I have to help, care about, teach, assess, interact with and otherwise support 160 students per day, then you are making it into a factory job, and sure, talk about “products,” instead of people.

    It’s like the difference between making a meal for 6 or 160. Needless to say, while you may economies of scale, you almost always sacrifice taste, and quality. Likewise, I can do an amazing job teaching small classes and reach almost every kid (I say “almost” because 100% may or may not be possible to reach every kid every year). Give me upwards of 150 students a day, and you have a factory.

    So far, we soon to be choosing the factory. So, don’t blame teachers for not reaching every single kid, because although the model may be a factory, the kids, for sure, are not all standardized parts, and I surely cannot predict their adult lives.

  • LK

    #1: Re your point F, what changed last year is class sizes. Classes are going up to contract limits, so children are getting less individual attention.

  • 1day at a time

    @IntrepidTeacher: Why would you choose to work in a place with such persistent obstacles. If you don’t feel you can be successful in that situation, why work there instead of going to a place where the situation is more aligned with your skill set? What is success? If not tied to student outcomes… please let us know what success for a teacher means to you

    You said:
    “No doctor would be held responsible for a patient (not client) who didn’t come in for appointments, and/or did not follow medical advice, and/or continued to engage in unhealthy behaviors.”

    If a doctor makes a mistake that leads to a death. He/she is held responsible regardless of the patient’ history. If a doctor fails to use best practices and the person ends up dead, they are held responsible.

    You said:
    “Nor does any doctor, or coach deal with up to 160 people per day, 5 days per week. Nor does any (or at least not many) coach or stockbroker work with a percentage of people who have not had the free choice to be there.”

    There are some teachers who honestly believe they have the hardest job in the world. I don’t doubt its difficulty, especially in the flatland schools. However, you should spend a day in the trauma ward over at Highland Hospital before you start comparing the volume of what you have to “deal with”. You need to get a grip on reality. Teaching is tough. A lot of jobs are tough, ask a policeman. The question is how we are evaluated.

    The difference between an ER doctor at Highland and a flatland teacher is that the ER person knows pretty quickly whether or not they have helped or hurt a patient’s chances for survival. They see the body bags.

  • Yazstremski

    1 day at a time…as a Registered Nurse for 20 years AND current high school science teacher I can promise you that there is absolutely no validity to your comparison.
    Intrepid was (quite eloquently in my opinion) saying that WE as teachers cannot shoulder the blame ALONE when kids come to school unprepared from home.
    Just like a doctor cannot shoulder the blame when they give a patient a prescription (homework) and tell them to take it, the patient doesn’t, yet shows up with their family demanding to know why the patient isn’t better.

    The ER doc comparison cannot hold water, they don’t follow a patient for a year or two…and there is no parallel in the teaching world.

    Most of us chose to teach because we want to make a difference and although I still practice nursing, I can honestly say that what I have done in the past 3 years for some of my students gives me as much satisfaction as saving a life.

  • coding error

    @ 1day at a time

    You have quite a few points right on.
    However, I would qualify who should be under the microscope. Principals and up are at will employees. Their union counts very little, pretty much symbolic. Not getting removed when they should is a lack of will to stir the political waters, or the determined will to keep individuals that play a role of convenience.
    Certainly when a school does not work, the principals are the easiest piece to remove (surely easier than the teachers, or the custodian, or the cafeteria manager… you name it). If the administrator can is open, look over the principals to find responsibilities. Those people are most of the time sitting in their office or in meetings where their accountability is unrelated to student outcomes or school conditions.

  • wiley

    The system is de-professionalilzed. Teachers being compared with physicains..really..compare education, status and salaries, why don’t you! Yea I know there is professional erosion happening in the medical field too. It does not take brain surgery to tackle the issue of teacher professionalism. Get the job done- watching the clock doesn’t get it. Conditions you cannot control- professionals should either figure out how to or find another job. Evaluation – how are professors and doctors evaluated- peer review is part of that, so change what happens now. Time for collaboration and planning – look, we do have an assembly line educational system here- teachers have essentialy no time for collaboration and PD compared to other countries like Japan. Salaries – joke- compare to doctors and other “professionals” Retirement – joke! Curriculum- publishing companies and political whim trump teachers everytime.
    So be real, and stop scapegoating teachers. Agreed, there is no place for winers BUT what have organizations and unions and the public and administrators done to support the professionalism of teaching?

  • Jim Mordecai

    Coding Error:

    “Certainly when a school does not work, the principals are the easiest piece to remove (surely easier than the teachers, or the custodian, or the cafeteria manager… you name it).”

    This is the charter school model in theory. But, in Oakland all of its charter schools are non-union. However, to constantly remove employees at a school creates churn. In practice charter schools in Oakland seem to try to establish stability and avoid churn. Churn is often thought as a negative. And, there is in Oakland a higher amount of churn in charter schools compared to public schools.

    I am naming “at-will-employees” as not in practice the silver bulletin the supporters of the market-theory of educational reform believe it to be. All Oakland charter schools are schools with at-will-employees. But, not all Oakland charter schools are performing better than unionized Oakland public schools.

    If I turned the argument around and was able to unionize a charter school, I would not argue that the performance of the school would be better and that unionizing is a silver bullet to better school performance.

    Yet, Coding Error, you must ignore Oakland’s at-will-employee charter schools mixed student performance, if you want to stick with idea that at-will-employees is the silver bullet of educational reform.

    Jim Mordecai

  • 1day at a time

    Principals should be held accountable. They should be fired if they don’t get it right, not moved to the central office. Katy has reported a high turnover rate in OUSD principals. Don’t know if they walk out or are shoved out.

    @Yaztremski, there’s plenty of blame to go around. Everyone can “shoulder” some of it. Intrepid’s words speak for themselves: Intrepid wants fewer students who are better prepared and come in with good health, knowledge, parental support, behavior AND belief system. Then, Intrepid says, they have a chance to “help that kid”. Why, on earth, would a person choose to work in Oakland where those criteria are almost NEVER met!! That’s the question no teacher seems willing or able to answer. Why? Are people hoping that “this year” they’ll get the class that matches the criteria they need to be effective. This is Oakland. It is what it is. You choose to teach her. Stop complaining about our kids and parents are the reason you can’t be effective. Go where you will be effective. Is that too much to ask? The system is here to serve OUR KIDS, not YOUR skill set.

    And, unfortunately, parents are flying blind. If your kid is smart as a whip, but has health concerns and ADD (both things that Intrepid listed will keep them from having a chance at helping a kid) – you have GOT to keep him out of Intrepids class. But you don’t know that before it’s too late. You don’t get the truth about your kid’s teacher until your kid comes home and says, “The teacher doesn’t like me.” You instinct says to support the adult, but when you know there are teachers who think like Intrepid…. you have to listen to your kid.

    Pick a path. Professionals choose to go where there skill set is suited because they KNOW the outcomes matter. Widgeteers go into any factory they can get hired. Professionals affiliate with associations that provide professional guidance. What kind of orgs do widgeteers join.

    Anyone who operates according to the Oakland Unions “Code of Conduct” that basically says, “No Snitching” can’t possible claim to be a professional. Can you imagine a doctor turning a blind eye when they know a surgeon is incompetent and leading to deaths. Please be real.

    The voices we often hear from teachers are the crazies. The extremists believe fighting charters, protecting due process at all costs, and fighting measures that distinguish one teacher from another. That’s who’s at board meetings, in the paper, dictating policy, voting, and leading the charge. The crazies.

    We hear nothing from the other voices. The moderates, the progressives. The ones who put children before adults. The ones who think due process is god, but they woudn’t fight against a child abuse law to protect it. They are there. We just rarely hear from them in any forum. Maybe this is because they are too busy teaching, but those teachers need to realize the idiots are screwing it up for them. They make their job harder, respect lower, and they undermine all their hard work by allowing talented students to wither on the altar of their indifference.

    This is usually the time somebody comes in and starts talking about charter schools to distract the conversation. Wait for it…..

  • 1day at a time

    I just read #9. Knew the distracting charter bomb was coming.

    To fall into the trap I would say: Charter schools are public schools!! We, the public, pay money for them and our kids have a chance to go to them. So they’re publiuc.

    Then, of course, I’d get lots of socialist theory thrown at me until I, or anybody else, caves in to the anti-charter info deluge.

    Meanwhile, the original discussion/debate would wither.

  • Harold

    There isn’t any accountability for Principals in OUSD. If they screw up at a school site – next thing you know they are a TSA (“Teacher” on Special Assignment) hiding out in the central administration building. I have asked Katy to investigate this practice a number of times.

  • coding error

    Harold, we are in agreement. That´s why I say: look at who´s signing off on the promotion! Don´t look at the finger, see where it is is pointing :)
    Indeed someone should “audit” that too.

  • Observer

    As a parent, a parent of public school students, I can say with absolute assurance that the bulk of the responsibility falls to us. Parents, guardian–Whoever is responsible for getting a child to school on time and ready to be there (preferably beginning in utero) should bear the weight of scrutiny for that child’s educational outcome.

    Until we have systems in place that do that, teacher evaluations are meaningless.

    Instead of the very expensive Oakland Police Department’s OUSD branch hanging out in their cars in front of various schools throughout the city in a mock demonstration of force against that students that are actually in school, they should be running around town tracking down the children (yes, small children) who are not but should be.

    Instead of attendance monitors at all OUSD schools ( a relatively new and expensive item) including all the Hills schools that don’t actually have issues with high absenteeism and tardiness (but we must be fair and pick on everyone equally), why not concentrate on schools that actually have this problem?

    Instead of health clinics at schools, why not spend that money on outreach directly to the home and concentrate solely on the educational achievement of the children in whatever home they live in—bring books, provide transportation to tutoring programs, after school remedial programs, mandatory programs for parents or guardians who fail to not only do homework with their children but fail to bring them to school, them list goes on—and live health care and social work to health care professionals and social workers. Educational institutions shpuld be narrow mindedly concentrating on the basics of education: come to school, be prepared with materials, provide qualified instruction. Period.

  • Jim Mordecai

    1day At A Time:

    Thank you for falling into my trap and sort of responding to my point that all Oakland Charter Schools are non-union “at-will-employees” in both principal and teacher positions.

    However, your response did not address my major point that making all students “at-will-employees” is not a silver bullet of educational reform. Instead you merely said, “charter schools are public schools.”

    First charter schools are public schools that are privately managed and that is a type of public school different from all other public schools in California.

    As a square is to a rectangle a charter school is to public schools. Not all public schools are charter schools–yet.

    You actually avoided my trap by not addressing my assertion that at-will-employees is not the silver bullet of educational reform.

    Nevertheless, I appreciate that you were willing to play straightman and assert that “charter schools are public schools” and thereby give me the opportunity to say that they are also PRVIATELY managed.

    “Then, of course, I’d get lots of socialist theory thrown at me until I, or anybody else, caves in to the anti-charter info deluge.”

    I also suspect, in contrast to your quote posted above, that there are lots of people that may oppose privatizing the management of public schools without paying attention to a single socialist theory. And, I also suspect there are many capitalism supporters that support public management of the public schools they pay for.

    Jim Mordecai

  • IntrepidTeacher

    1 day at a time: first of all, (it’s hard to even know where to begin), are you really comparing teaching school to working in an emergency room? This is not a contest to see which job is the hardest. They’re hard in different ways. And yes, teaching, especially in Oakland, but even if it were Harvard grad students, it is one of the hardest jobs in the world. And one that invites constant criticism from people who have never done it. Walk a few thousand miles in my shoes, and then maybe you’ll have a right to criticize.

    My point remains that all teachers would be more effective if they had much smaller classes, especially so we can deal with the kids who do not come to school especially ready to learn.

    As far as ADHD: way over-diagnosed, it’s become a crutch and an excuse for everything. I’ve had more than one kid tell me that they can’t behave because they have ADHD. In most cases, it is poor parenting. And yes, I do hold parents responsible. My students with lovely manners and personality almost to a child have parents who insist that they behave in school (and elsewhere). Where do kids learn how to behave? Mostly at home. And it is the parents’ responsibilty to properly care for their children. Since many don’t, schools are charged with far more than teaching. But I don’t for a moment believe that Oakland kids can’t behave, because plenty of them do. Unfortunately, they’re in the same classrooms with the many who don’t, because their parents don’t or won’t teach them or even model decent behavior themselves. I really wish all parents were required to take parenting classes.

    And, just for the record, I have had both parents and students ask to be IN my classes, not removed. But the job is not sustainable, and managing the needs of 160 students all day, many of whom need specialized attention, is not in ANYBODY’S skill set, no matter how dedicated, committed, passionate and caring they are, at least not over the long haul. Most of my young colleagues do not plan to remain in teaching for more than a few years.

    As far as TSA’s: once again, it’s a sweeping generalization meaning little. TSA’s actually do much of the grunt work of adminstration, for teachers’ wages, do trainings, mentor, develop curriculum, do research on behalf of teacher, coordinate programs in literacy, technology integration, assessment and other topics. And it’s an option that would actually make good use of veteran teachers’ knowledge and expertise. My biggest complaint is that those positions often go to teachers who have been in the classroom for three years. These jobs should go to veteran teachers who can draw on many years of expertise.

  • Rumor Has It

    I appreciate your comments, Intrepid Teacher. I am a parent and I really bristle at the idea that there are teachers who can/should be able to effectively and efficiently teach the kids who come to school so sorely unprepared. I expect teachers to do their very best, their professional best, but I don’t think it fair to expect miracles. Teachers can give guidance to both the children and their caregivers of what will increase that child’s success; attending class, regular bedtimes, balanced diet, counseling for past traumas, taking advantage of tutoring, limiting electronics, participating in sports, etc. They can do their utmost to cheer-lead and motivate, but at the end of the day, the child and caregiver must fulfill their responsibilities to the learning process. The hope is that the student and caregivers will eventually take advantage of what is offered or that a sufficient amount of learning will sink in, regardless. I commend the teachers who are willing to work under such difficult conditions.

    And let me also state that ER doctors are not on the hook to cure the multiple gunshot wounds to the head that come in the door. They do their utmost, their humanly possible best. They likely feel awful when it does not end well. However, they are not held responsible for the poor outcome. Sorry not true.

    Furthermore, many MDs choose to work with very challenging patient populations. Let’s say the 25 yr old homeless man with schizophrenia who is also using meth and known for violent outbursts, for example. The do their best to offer treatments, rehab, shelters, board and cares, ssdi, appropriate labs, motivational interviewing, case management, regular assessments, etc. They work to keep the patient and society safe. Often the best that they can do is to work to plant a seed of change within the patient. They are commended for working with challenging populations that other doctors have less interest in treating. They offer the best care they can, but alas, they aren’t expected to produce miracles.

  • 1day at a time

    Summary: As long as teachers try their best, they shouldn’t be held responsible for students actually learning anything. It’s offensive to suggest otherwise because, well, pointed criticism from the public is ignorantly biased because the “unteachable kids” come from the public.

    Further, teachers who deign to teach children without the basic beliefs, skills, health, and background suited to the teachers skill set are to be given a complete pass on the academic growth those students make while under their tuteledge.

    Further, the teacher is entitled to due process to the degree that the child’s civil rights are violated.

    FInally, the teachers speak with one voice. Where there are concerns, nobody speaks out except through their labor representation. The delay in communication and the compromising of students’ lives is ok, because (in the big picture) what’s good for teachers is good for kids.

    And finally, parents who chose to escape the system are to be reprimanded. The schools they choose to send their children will be set upon and destroyed through the ballot, propaganda, fiscal warfare, and uneven application of accountability standards.

    I think I got it all.

    20 years from now, when this story is told, people won’t believe what was once allowed to happen in public education.

    When good people do nothing, evil thrives.

    @intrepid, the people who pay your salary have a right to criticize you! Wlalk a mile in your shoes, you say? Maybe you should try walking a mile in the shoes of the parents you disrespect and blame for students not making any academic progress

    Try being one of the parents who is struggling in Oakland,who has a child that struggles, only to find out that their teacher takes NO responsibility for their learning because… well, because apparently, they and their child have too many problems. Unbelievable.

    You teach in Oakland. Not Orinda. Go to Orinda if you can’t handle teaching kids with problems. We’re paying your salary because we need professionals to help educate our children. We don’t need people to be condescending and blame us for our child spending a year in their classroom without learning. Get off your high horse and see the parents of Oakland as real people. Stop teaching our kids and then secretly blaming the parents for everything you are unable to do. Just teach. Just teach. Stop blaming everybody else and stop whining about the things you can’t control. Teach. And here’s a newsflash: If the child isn’t learning, you’re not teaching.

    We need more real teachers. Kinda like the difference between a marine and a mercenary.

    When asked to do certain things, the mercenary says, “They don’t pay me enough to do that.

    If you ask the marine why he still does it he’ll tell you, “Because I’m a marine.”

    Since when did teachers lose the heart and will to save. Since when did American teachers focus on excuses. Since when did American teachers lose the thing that made them, collectively, the pride of our country. They’ve always been underpaid. They’ve always faced incredible odds. They were amazing during and after slavery, but they never blamed the kids’ “home problems”. They were great during the 60’s when their efforts produced a booming middle class. What the hell happened to our teachers?

    Maybe I glamorize her too much, but if my favorite teacher (1st grade) had ever heard someone disrespect our parents or her profession – I’d like to think she would have slapped them in the mouth. But now, quitters and whiners have carte blanche. They give the profession a bad name.

    I think great teachers should be paid a king’s ransom. I’d pay higher taxes to compensate teachers at the 150k level, but if teachers don’t even want to tie their evaluations to student learning – then I’d be a fool to pay those higher taxes.

    @Intrepidteacher: “And one that invites constant criticism from people who have never done it. Walk a few thousand miles in my shoes, and then maybe you’ll have a right to criticize.”

    You assume a lot, intrepid. You shouldn’t. Your shores are hand-me-downs… it’s been done before.

  • IntrepidTeacher

    1 Day at a Time: You are the one who assumes a lot. And I do expect parents to be responsible for their kids. The soft bigotry of low expectations: kids in Oakland aren’t able to behave as well as kids in Orinda? You stoop to name-calling and all kinds of assumptions.

    But yes, I expect kids to behave. Even in Oakland. And I expect their parents to be responsible. Even in Oakland.

    And my best is pretty damned good. But I’m not a miracle worker. And teachers should not have to be miracle workers. I do a good job most of the time, sometimes great, sometimes not so good. I am so amazed by the non-teachers who complain about teachers on this blog. Do you do YOUR job perfectly 100%? How’s about I come in and criticize, even if I’ve never done it.

    The teacher-bashing is totally out of hand. I really wish I could evaluate some of the parents who take no responsiblity for the two or three or even seven or eight kids they have, as opposed to the 160 high school teachers see each day.

    I’m not responding anymore because I have better things to do. Like get ready to face five periods of kids again tomorrow.

  • OUSD Parent

    @ #19 IntrepidTeacher – Just want to say that I’m totally on your side with this one.

  • A coding error

    @ Intrepid teacher

    Teacher bashing: how many teachers are there in PAR this year? (I.e. Peer assistance review, the place where they go when the are not evaluated as “up to standard” to get some support). Probably you might even say that those evals were crooked too. Last year no more than 5 in OUSD in… how many teachers in the district?

    In OUSD, That bashing that you talk about is more rethorics than actual. Paychecks are still coming in. OK, some are involuntarily transferred (they may have a longer commute ;() In the meantime, students keep failing and the only argument is that they bring it from home. Social justice? Give me a break.

  • Observer

    I wonder how many of the teacher badgers have spent real time in Oaland classrooms?

  • 1day at a time

    Intrepid: “The soft bigotry of low expectations: kids in Oakland aren’t able to behave as well as kids in Orinda?”

    this is one of the worst distortions of a quote i’ve seen. George Bush used the term “soft bigotry of low expectations” to address student learning, not behavior. He was lambasting the very position you hold dear. Here’s the text:

    BUSH: >>>Tonight, I remind every parent and every teacher, I say to every child: No matter what your circumstance, no matter where you live, your school will be the path to promise of America.

    We are transforming our schools by raising standards and focusing on results. We are insisting on accountability, empowering parents and teachers, and making sure that local people are in charge of their schools.

    By testing every child, we are identifying those who need help, and we’re providing a record level of funding to get them that help.

    BUSH: In northeast Georgia, Gainesville Elementary School is mostly Hispanic and 90 percent poor. And this year, 90 percent of its students passed state tests in reading and math.

    The principal — the principal expresses the philosophy of his school this way: “We don’t focus on what we can’t do at this school; we focus on what we can do. And we do whatever it takes to get kids across the finish line.”

    See, this principal is challenging the soft bigotry of low expectations.

    And that is the spirit of our education reform and the commitment of our country: No dejaremos a ningun nino atras. We will leave no child behind.<<<

  • 1day at a time

    intrped :
    I find it amazing that you don’t see the insult to parents. Most kids in Oakland aren’t bad. There are students who are healthy, alert, supported by hard-working parents, prepared, and “compliant” who don’t learn enough in class. You go quickly to the extreme of a belligerent, sickly, child who’s always late…. that’s not he norm (and it’s not an excuse)”

    “You stoop to name-calling”. actually, no. #18 contains no “name calling.”

    LK said class sizes went up last year. Were there schools that did very well despite this new reality? Do schools/principals/teachers go visit and learn from the ones that adjusted well?

    >>My point remains that all teachers would be more effective if they had much smaller classes, especially so we can deal with the kids who do not come to school especially ready to learn.<<

    I get your point: Smaller classes will allow teachers to handle "difficult" students.

    My point: teacher and principal evaluations should be partly tied to outcomes; student learning is the outcome that matters most.

  • Doug Appel

    At last night’s board meeting, the District presented it’s first interim report. These budget documents (almost invariably studies in gothic terror–the end of the world is coming!) are large and somewhat difficult for a typical voter to read. However, in the back of the document are some key items called “criteria and standards” My first perusal of the 1st interim shows the following:
    Certificated Personnel–down over 200 from 2011-12 to 2012-13 (@2300-2100)
    Classified Personnel–down about 40 from 2011-12 Management and Confidential Personnel up from 398 to 435 from 2011-12 to 2012-13.

    So, there are hundreds of fewer employees to supervise, 5 fewer sites but an additional 37 managers (an 8% increase) according to the district’s own documents. Something here does not compute!

  • J.R.
  • Gordon Danning

    All this talk of holding principals accountable is great in theory, but in practice, when I was on a principal selection committee at Oakland High a couple of years ago, there were 6 secondary schools with openings, and 5 applicants, two of whom were very inexperienced. Or maybe it was 5 schools and 6 applicants. My point is that OUSD is in a “beggars can’t be choosers” situation re: principals. So, they should concentrate more on helping principals be more effective. (Suggestion: Reduce the responsibility of principals — no one person can good at budgeting, and discipline, and school climate, and curriculum, and the 10,000 other things OUSD asks of its principals).

    As for teachers: OF COURSE they should be accountable, at least to some degree. If most students come to OUSD schools with disadvantages, then yes, OUSD students will underperform Orinda students. But, if my students are in the bottom 20% of OUSD students every year, then obviously I have a problem. (This assumes, of course, that the instrument used to assess students/teachers is worthwhile. Hint: the state assessments, which generally do not seem to assess thinking skills in any meaningful way, don’t cut it).

  • 1day at a time

    Gordon, that’s sobering. Why is the pool of principal candidates so slim?

    the common core standards and the assessments used to measure their mastery are suppose to focus on thinking skills much more.

    @Doug. 37 more managers? What positions? That sounds like 3 or 4 new departments. Any insight?

  • Doug Appel

    No word just yet on where the new managerial positions are–or whether they actually exist or are just budget slots.
    The District is also investigating the discrepancy between the numbers of certificated (educator) positions reported on the first interim report and other district records which show a less of a decline.
    None of this surprises me all that much. Some discrepancy (typically 1 or 2 percent) between documents which represent snapshots taken at different times is normal. A 10% discrepancy is more worrying and throws significant doubt on the accuracy of the district’s data in other areas of finances. I was informed earlier this week that the district has not had a completed audit since 2006. The 1st interim shows the district maintains a multi-million dollar set aside for audit adjustments–which can only reflect the finance department’s doubts about the accuracy of their data and/or procedures. But they are certain that they can’t afford to fund the 14 positions that were consolidated at different sites at the beginning of the year….Makes you wonder.

  • Jim Mordecai


    One of the reasons that FCMAT reported for the District budget lacking fiscal control was the concept of “position control”. Position control means that when you hire someone you have real money identified to pay the person you hire.

    There was near the end of State Administration an expense contract was given out to establish position control.

    I suggest the District should bring a suit if it paid for something it never got or fire the personnel that didn’t follow the structure that was established. District problem is once they fire the accountable personnel, they might not know if they have the money to fund the positions they’ll need to fill and the extra money that may be required to train personnel to carry out the job properly.

    “The 1st interim shows the district maintains a multi-million dollar set aside for audit adjustments–which can only reflect the finance department’s doubts about the accuracy of their data and/or procedures.”

    I support the “multi-million dollar set aside” because he State is 2 or 3 years behind in doing there $400,000 yearly audits and in June will be an additional year behind. Since the State take-over, the District has never passed a State Controllers’ audit because District records were never complete. on top of the cost of the audit, the District has to pay for being out of compliance state and federal regulations. How much they pay is always not clear because procedure is to appeal audit findings and wait years to get a ruling.

    Being in the position of repaying $100 million loan that requires by law to pay for an expensive State Controller audit is like the song says: “16 tons and what you get another year older and deeper in debt.”

    The District is trying to get out of another year older and deeper in debt circumstance. Because of the State audit backlog, the District initiated a strategy of skipping two years of audits and begging forgiveness of the years skipped. The hope is that the strategy will work and the District will be out from under State Controller audits. It would then have the same type of audit that all the rest of the state school districts not under receivership perform.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Gordon Danning

    1day At A Time:

    My understanding is that OUSD pays principals less than many districts. Plus, frankly, being a principal is a pretty awful, thankless job.

  • Doug Appel

    I thought this article might be of interest to readers of this blog:

  • livegreen

    Katy, Re the coming years Budget Cuts, is this the reason School Sites are being asked to cut $30,000-$50,000 from their budgets for next year?

    Was any of this predicted by the District before? Related, is the 8.5% increase in Healthcare typical or higher than past years? (If higher, why?)

    Further details on this would b helpful. These budget cuts are going to have real impact on schools and programs for our children…

  • OUSD Parent

    Why doesn’t Oakland ever seem to come out on top when measures, such as Prop. 30, pass? I understand that 30 wouldn’t necessarily give more money to districts, but rather it would avert deep cuts in spending. Why is OUSD talking about budget cuts again especially after 30 passed?

  • J.R.

    “OUSD Parent wrote “Why is OUSD talking about budget cuts again especially after 30 passed”?

    Certificated Personnel–down over 200 from 2011-12 to 2012-13 (@2300-2100)
    Classified Personnel–down about 40 from 2011-12 Management and Confidential Personnel up from 398 to 435 from 2011-12 to 2012-13.

    So, there are hundreds of fewer employees to supervise, 5 fewer sites but an additional 37 managers (an 8% increase) according to the district’s own documents”.

    The learning of not even one child is being improved in any way shape or form, and yet the taxpayers costs continue to escalate.


    Is this good leadership? NO!

  • livegreen

    I said it months ago: Tony Smith can make Full Service Community Schools work, but only if the funding to do it comes from outside grants. Not by paying more administrators by cutting site based funding.

    He’s killing his own vision by doing this.

    Less administrators, more $ to the the kids for academics & a stable learning environment!

  • J.R.

    Tony never got the memo “socialism fails”, because sooner or later, the people who actually work for a living(based on exchanging goods and services on a voluntary basis for money)will run out of money, or seek to avoid having their money misappropriated and or wasted by near useless bureaucrats who subsist off of The public treasury and flourish by trading votes for cradle to grave support from that same public treasury.